Ellis backtracks on ‘mesmerising’ Maria

Australia's most capped netballer Liz Ellis has clarified her comments against "mesmerising" Maria Folau, saying her "real beef" is with netball bosses who refused to swiftly condemn homophobia.

It comes as ANZ Bank issued a statement claiming it did not support the views of the Silver Fern and had made its thoughts known to Netball New Zealand.

The kiwi netballer, 32, was known as Maria Tutaia before marrying Folau in November 2017 in Australia's Kangaroo Valley.

The 1.9 metre Auckland-born player has won Commonwealth Games medals and been vice captain for the Silver Ferns, but found herself the subject of international condemnation this week after reposting her husband's controversial appeal for donations in his legal battle with Rugby Australia.

On Monday, Ellis slammed the diplomatic stances of both Netball Australia and South Australia after they continued to support Israel Folau's wife after she reposted his comments.

READ: One unresolved question at heart of Folau case

Netball Australia said there was "no action required" as the Kiwi player did not violate its social media policy and it would "continue to support Maria as a valued member of the Thunderbirds and the Suncorp Super Netball league."

"Yeah nah not good enough," Ellis tweeted.

"How about this: There is no room for homophobia in our game. Anyone who is seen to support or endorse homophobia is not welcome. As much as I love watching @MariaFolau play netball I do not want my sport endorsing the views of her husband."

Her tweet received over 1500 replies with the topic once again causing a divide among the nation as people fought for and against the issue.

In an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, Ellis clarified her issue was not with Maria and called her "one of the most mesmerising, enigmatic and skilful goal attacks ever to play our game".

Instead, she called out Super Netball and the Adelaide Thunderbirds again for failing to take a strong stance on the issue, saying her "real beef" was with organisers who failed to act swiftly.

"I understand that my tweet was interpreted to mean specifically that Maria was not welcome. I get it. It was poorly worded from that point of view," she wrote.

"I would like to think we are well past the time where a woman is held to account for things her husband says. Just because Maria is married to a man who publicly states things that cause huge controversy, and that many people (myself included) find abhorrent, doesn't mean that she has to answer for him.

"Until, of course, she re-posted something that is clearly related to those views.

Which brings me to my real beef, and the people to whom my tweet was aimed: those running our sport," Ellis wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Ellis, who played 122 games for the Australian team, retired from the game in 2007 and said the organisations should have gone further.

"The statements from the Thunderbirds and from Super Netball did not go far enough, and were not good enough," she wrote.

READ: Rival campaign launched to counter Folau

"They could have given Maria her slap on the wrist, but combined it with something so much stronger. To say without equivocation, without weasel words, that homophobia is not welcome in our sport. To me, it was a lost opportunity to say to LGBTQI players, both in the league and in the suburbs, that they are welcome, they are wanted and they are supported."

ANZ Bank also said it did not "support the views of Silver Fern Maria Folau and have made our views known to her employer Netball NZ," in a statement.

 

The couple married in November 2018. Picture: Instagram.
The couple married in November 2018. Picture: Instagram.

 

Israel and Maria Folau.
Israel and Maria Folau.

Netball New Zealand released a statement on Tuesday confirming it would stand beside Maria Folau. In a statement, Netball NZ said: "Maria Folau has not breached NNZ policy."

"Netball New Zealand values inclusion and diversity across all areas of the community and our sport whether its gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality, religion, and we take responsibility as role models for young New Zealanders very seriously.

"We acknowledge that people have differing views and beliefs. It is important those opinions and views are expressed in constructive and respectful ways."

Maria will return to Auckland this week for the Silver Ferns as they begin preparations for the upcoming Netball World Cup taking place in Liverpool in July.

FULL STATEMENT FROM NETBALL SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Netball South Australia CEO Bronwyn Klei released a statement on Maria Folau and while the federation did not back her they did not whack her either, taking a diplomatic stand.

"First and foremost, I want to be very clear that Netball South Australia is fiercely determined to provide an inclusive environment that allows anyone to participate in the great game of netball regardless of gender, religious belief, age, race or sexual orientation," Klei's statement said.

"We also believe in fairness and perspective.

"Like millions of other people across Australia, Maria Folau uses her personal social media platform to share her life and beliefs with her family, friends and fans. This week, she shared her husband's controversial GoFundMe post.

"While Netball SA in no way endorses the reposting, we do not believe Maria has contravened our social media policy.

"Maria is a key member of the Thunderbirds. Not only has she provided great strength and leadership on court, she attends and works with netballing clinics, spends a lot of time with fans, engages with local communities and passionately encourages kids with their netball dreams.

"We continue to support her as we support all our players."

The statement then went on to clarify Netball SA's position on equality in terms of gender and inclusiveness.

"To the thousands of people that play netball across South Australia every week:

"Netball SA is not endorsing Maria's repost.

"Netball SA is committed to diversity and inclusion.

"Netball SA and the Adelaide Thunderbirds support and encourage everyone wanting to play this great game."


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